Sorry I have not written for such a long time. I wrote to you almost every day after you died, pouring my grief and emotion into these letters to you. After a few months I stopped because it hurts so much.
Writing letters to a child who will never write back, who will not call or text and never come unannounced through the back door is too hard a task for any mother.
It has been a long time since I could run my hand through your hair or see your mischievous smile. Next month we would be celebrating your 30th birthday. You were 25 when we found you in your apartment with a needle by your side.
Danny, there is so much I have learned since that fateful day, and so much I wished I had known in time to help you.
The day before you died you asked to see your psychologist again, and while I thought that was good news (you had stopped seeing her more than a year before because it was hard with your work hours in the restaurant kitchen), I was also worried about you using again.
I also knew that asking you about a relapse would just make you angry. Angry for not trusting you if you had not relapsed and angry at yourself if you were using again.
You did not know that deadly drugs had entered the illicit market. You were one of the early victims, before Fentanyl made the news and before there were any health warnings.
Those came months after your death and it was the lack of warnings that prompted me to reach out to media with your story and to write to health officials.
This is how I met other moms and families in the same situation. We started a group called Moms Stop The Harm and we want to change how people view addiction. Not as a crime, but as a health and human rights issue.
The contaminated supply that killed you has become so much worse and every year thousands of people die in this country.
Imagine if we had a poisoned water supply and more and more people started dying. Would we allow for this to happen or would we fix the problem?
Every time someone dies from fentanyl poisoning, it is as if you die all over again. For us moms, we feel the loss collectively for everyone who dies.
Remember when we sat on the driftwood log at the cabin and I asked you why you used? You told me that when you took one of those oxycontin pills, you could walk into any room and just be yourself. You struggled with social anxiety and oxycontin bought on the street was your way of self medicating.
I still wonder how we as a family, as a society had failed to help you before you turned to drugs.
When oxy was no longer available and you switched to heroin and later started to inject, we were so scared, and I had countless sleepless nights. If you did not text for a few days, I expected that knock on the door with a police officer breaking the news.
I never expected that we would find you dead so many months into your recovery, when we had hoped that you were strong enough to make it. You were too ashamed to tell us you were using again.
You knew how badly we wanted the old Danny back, the kid we knew. The one who goofed around and who made us all laugh. I looked at some of our old photos recently, and I realize that with you, laughter has left our family.
When we cleaned your apartment after you died, I found song lyrics you wrote on your old typewriter. One was about an overdrawn account and I was taken aback when I realized that you did not write about cash flow, but about an overdrawn account of regrets.
Danny, I hope you know we loved you, and always will. The drug use did not change that.
I know you never meant to hurt us, and you would have stopped using if you could, but information the health system gave us was not helpful.
We did not understand how treatment should look like, the risk of relapse and how to keep you safe.
I wish I had known about harm reduction. About keeping people as healthy as possible without judgement or shame. About the medication Naloxone that can reverse an overdose. Thousands of lives have been saved and now I carry a kit in my purse wherever I go. We can save more lives if we give people like you, people who for whatever reason need to use, a safer supply of pharmaceutical grade substances. I imagine what might have been different, if you could have gone to a doctor or a pharmacy, rather than a dealer on the street.
I wish I could turn back time. I wish you did not feel that you had to hide your relapse from us. I wish I could have been there with you that fateful evening to keep you safe. I wish you had access to safer supply.
I do know you would be proud of me and the advocacy work I do with hundreds of other affected moms and families in MSTH. We fight for harm reduction, against stigma and against the criminalization of people who use drugs, so other people’s kids and don’t hide the fact they use and to make sure they don’t die alone.
When there is no need to hide, people can stay safe and get the help they need. When we stop locking people up, we can use that money for harm reduction, treatment, and prevention. I know if you were here you would help me fight for that. Your dad and your siblings do.
The best part of the advocacy work is that I get to talk about you, Danny. When I give talks, I show photos and explain what a great kid you were and what a wonderful young man you became. I wonder how different the outcome could have been for you and for us.
You are donating your story, I am your voice and I get to speak your name.
Take care sweet. Love you, forever and always. Until I find the strength to write again.